Search engine optimizers often talk about keeping your site “fresh” as a strategy for getting improved rankings or maintaining your position in the SERPs. Naturally, it also pays to have a website that is based in the present, given that technology moves at light speed, and content that is two years old is about as up-to-date as a news magazine in a doctor’s office. Even without considering the search engines, if you have a site worth reading, you should really make it a few return visits.
From the SEO side of the equation, here are a few good effects you can get from revisiting your stale content:
- Blow Out Dense Keywords. If your site has been around long enough, its pages can sometimes be used as a carbon-dating test for that year’s SEO tactics. If you have 500 keywords at the bottom of the page in 1 point type which blends into the background, your site is probably an antique. If you repeat the same word (and its variations) in a way that can’t credibly be read out loud, you might be looking at a 2003 vintage, where the cliché of the day was “Content is King.”
- Take Advantage of New Semantic Rules. Google has been feathering in synonyms for some time now, but it has stepped up its schedule over the past few months. We have noticed several cases where sites with synonymous phrases have worked their way into SERPs where they would not otherwise have the SEO credentials. When you rewrite your content, make sure you consider all the related words and phrases that could potentially sell your product.
- Strengthen Your Profile. If you use Google Webmaster Tools, you can see a list that shows all of your keywords in order of importance. If this list is full of phrases that aren’t going to be typed into a search engine, then you could be suffering from low exposure. Also, if your important keywords aren’t near the top of the list, then your site is less likely to hold top positions for good phrases.
- Modernize your keywords. Are people using different words or phrases than they did in the past? Occasionally, a “meaning shift” will happen in the world of keywords, or people may be more savvy at searching than they were in the past. This is especially true if your site’s content is based off results from the old Overture Tool. A fresh look at keyword demand may help you find phrases that didn’t exist a few years ago, especially if they are related to social media or phone technology.
- Improve the Long-Tail. Making more references to long-tail phrases casts a wider net. Our own research shows that long-tail terms can match, double, or even quintuple the traffic related to the same short-tail search term. Each keyword phrase behaves differently in its long-tail incarnations, but we have seen lists showing thousands of “one off” variations on a keyword that would not have been possible without extra context. As it turned out, the contextual keywords were created by content that expanded on a main topic, and explored variations on a theme.
- Stamp Out Duplicate Content. Who originally wrote the text on your site? If it was not you, or if the copy was written years ago, it could be getting downgraded because someone copied it from somewhere else. Conversely, if someone copied your content before the search engine found it, you might not be benefiting from it either. (This happens more often than you might think.)
Cleaning up your content doesn’t mean that you should just replace an outdated SEO tactic with one that is in style. By adding value, expanding on concepts, and clarifying data that is already on your site, you are creating an improved user experience. In several cases you may also find that the information on certain pages is laughably outdated, or is missing important new concepts. We have also found that a fresh look at the text on your site helps you refocus on your business model, or explore areas that can become more profitable if they get enough of your attention. Aside from resetting your “freshness meter” in the search engine algorithms, your revised and added content can improve the trust level among interested customers, which can be the difference between an online sale and a passing visit.